The Quest Begins - Hiking Mount Marcy

Due to a cancelation of an event with my family, Kristy and I both had a free weekend. All summer Kristy and I have been trying to go backpacking and/or camping. This weekend is finally it!!! We are both so excited! The weekend before the trip Kristy came over for some waffles and planning. We decided on a trip to the Adirondacks to climb Mount Marcy. This was on the itinerary earlier this year but due to some bad weather we were forced back down the mountain before we reached the summit. Read about that trip here. I already have an idea about how I want this trip to go. I wanted to carry less, start earlier, and reach the summit!

On Thursday we have a pizza and packing party. The horrible thing was Thursday I woke up with a bit of a stuffy nose. Crapper this is not how I wanted this trip to go. I stick with the plan and hope that I will feel better by Saturday morning. At the packing party we struggle with the idea of what do about the required bear canister. The only one I have is the bear vault, which is really large. If I put the bear canister in my pack I won’t be able to fit my sleeping pad. The only place I found that had a smaller canister is the Mountaineer in Keene but we won’t be there in time to get one on. I call and buy one over the phone and ask them to leave it outside for me.  I take the bear vault as a backup just in case something happens and I don’t get the one from the Mountaineer.  I pack as little as I can and this list does not include what I’m wearing. All which fit in my Mountain Hardwear scrambler 30!

Packing List:

Food list (for both Kristy and I)

  • 6 power muffins
  • 2 tea bags (Kristy thought we needed 4 tea bags each, oh Kristy)
  • 2 dehydrated meals
  • Kind bars
  • Gatorade power chews (thanks Lou)
  • All fit into the bear boxer we ordered from the Mountaineer

(Kristy is carrying the water filter, and hand sanitizer)

Soon enough it was Friday afternoon. Kristy met me at work with Pepper and we hit the road around 1:30. On the drive we notice the gradual changing of the leaves the farther north we get. This is also the first weekend since the weather switched to fall. It was rather cold, somewhere in the 50s yikes! This will be a cold night outside.  We arrive in Keene Valley pick up the bear boxer and get a nice hot meal at the ADK Café.  We order way more food than we could possible eat! The poutine was the best thing on the menu; I highly recommend trying the poutine from the ADK café.

After some amazing food we head to the garden parking lot to sleep in the car. We also have to pack the bear boxer and hope all our food fits in the smaller canister. Kristy starts by throwing in our Gatorade chews; I look at her and shake my head. Pull them both out take the cardboard packaging off and return them in just the plastic coating to the canister. Oh Kristy? Then we add the large items, tea bags and fill the canister up the rest of the way with kind bars. Now that it is around 8:30 we decide it is time for bed. Not sure why we are both so tired but it was dark and we had no distractions of electronics so it was bedtime. This is not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement. The back of an FJ Curser has a rubber mat that is right in your lumbar spine.  This was also rather snug condition with the two of us and Pepper. A group of hikers came in at 3:00am, I know you are not allowed to hike in groups more than 8 but I swear this group large group with many many car doors!

At 5:00am the alarm goes off, I’m insistently awake. I am super excited to get started on our adventure. Kristy thinks she can hit snooze, ha jokes on her I know that will not work for me but I lie back down and snuggle with Pepper until she is ready to get up. We take a few minutes to get our packs together before having our breakfast of a turkey sandwich.  Then it is time to put on the headlamps and hit the trails.  The weather was much more bearable then I thought it was going to be and I got warmed up within 45 minutes. We start out at a rather fast pace because I know we will slow down when we are higher up the mountain. We make it to John Brooks lodge in time to get some hot coffee then continue on. Saturday morning is all about hiking and making it to the top; we will have a more leisure hike on Sunday.

We chat a bit when hiking; play leapfrog with 2 other hikers. At one point we stop to actually say hello. They inquire as to where we are heading, Kristy responds with much enthusiasm “To the TOP!” my third oh Kristy moment of the day.  I interject with to Mount Marcy before busting out laughing. We hit the half way point much quicker than I anticipated and begin to get hopeful that the day will be awesome and smooth and we will see all the epic views I missed my first time around. Kristy starts planning more peaks we can hit I am not that optimistic about our destinations because I know what is coming on the trail: large boulders, fatigue, and extreme happiness!

Somewhere above 3,500 feet after the Slant Rock lean to it starts to cool off due to the rising elevation, my ears start popping, I become more aware of my sniffles I had the previous days.  I love seeing the tips of the trees covered in frost, I laugh as the wind blows and it begins to ‘snow’ on me. Kristy and I assume we have covered more distance than we actually had, I think this section of the trail is only 2 miles but it took us the most time to cover. I continue on the trail while the pine tress brush out my hair. We eventually start to get a little cold. The icy that was so pretty before becomes an annoyance to hike on. This section of the trail I was on my hands and knees climbing more than once. In one area Pepper had a difficult time climbing up, I had to lift her up. This is the first time I am reminded she is the perfect size dog. As Kristy and I climb up these small boulders/large rocks which is called the trail I have to stop more than once to catch my breath, my sinus cavity is now pounding, along with my head Kristy is nice enough to not mind my frequent stops. She comments that her legs are becoming a bit tired as well; to my surprise my legs feel pretty good. They are tired but not the jello I expected after taking 3 weeks off of running (scheduled recover). 

We finally come to bit of a clearing where the trail meets up with one from the other side. We start to see a lot of happy people and wonder where they had come from. Defiantly not the direction we did. After picking a couples’ brain we realize there is a much shorter trail to summit Mount Marcy that is only about 5 to 6 miles not the 10 we just did. Oh well the journey it half the fun! Not sure if Kristy agrees with my on that one but I do. I put on my wind layer because I know it will be crazy windy on the summit, Kristy thinks she doesn’t need it but humors me anyway. Oh, Kristy. We continue on the trial until we finally come into view of summit of Mount Marcy. This is only 1 mile away now! I am excited! This one-mile seems to take forever; the wind starts to pick up I notice a change in the vegetation. Faster hikers constantly are passing us, I didn’t think we were that slow but apparently we are, I don’t care.

We reach the top, the wind is absolutely crazy and it is freezing. I look around watch how fast the clouds come and leave. The weather shift from just one mile below is drastic. I breathe the mountain views in-between clouds and feel satisfied. This is what I came here for. This wildness of wind and nature is exactly what my soul feels when trapped in the busyness of everyday life. These views and this amount of untamed mother earth silences my restless wild side. I know my wild soul will feed off of this for weeks or even months to come.  Pepper’s eyes look out over the mountain as if to think the same think I do.

After soaking up as much as I can, I pull out my phone to snap some pics; once my hand is so cold it refuses to press the button on my phone I know it is time to get off that Mountain. We look around for the trail on the other side, I don’t see it. I suggest we head back down the way we came and go around to haystack.  Pepper is also very anxious to get to some kind of covering not sure if she was cold or scared but she was booking it down the mountain. I start to get annoyed with her pulling, I look at my watch realize it is 1:30, and I'm starved. We head down the mountain Pepper is still pulling like crazy. I see a small creature bounding up the rocks in our direction, then Peppers sees this cute little animal and more pulling happens. I am officially annoyed and we find a nice rock in the sun to stop at and grab a bite to eat. (I later look up that this cute little animal is an American Marten.)

When eating we decide on a plan for the rest of the day. We can either hike Haystack or head back. We decide we couldn’t take another cold and windy summit like we were just on and wanted to have a warmer night so we bust out the Jetboil have a hot lunch then heading down to Lick Brook 2 lean to.  We enjoy a nice break and the warmth of the sun upon us.

With some warm food in our bellies we head back down the mountain.  I'm now back to my normal chipper self. Checking in on Kristy about how her legs feel, commenting that it is just like running sometimes you feel like you can’t go any further; then you do and really you are fine. I am also watering and tending some seeds I planted in her head about running a long distance race with me in the spring. We arrive at slant rock lean to and we have time to make it to Lick Brook 2 lean to with enough time to eat and get set up before dark.  Somewhere between Slant Rock and Lick Brook we stop to drop a layer and Pepper lies down and decides she is tired. There is a nice patch of moss right beside the trail she thinks looks like a good place to bed. Kristy and I watch Pepper lick her paw which got a little beat up and look at us like no more. My heart breaks a little bit when we tell her it is time to keep going and she moves to the moss on the other side of the trail. At this point I start to wonder if I need to carry this sweet little dog. With some encouragement she is back on the trail ahead of us seeming just fine, maybe moving a bit slower than she had before.

After many comments of when we will arrive at the lean to the sign finally comes into view. I say nothing to Kristy but stand below the sign and point upward wait for her to come about the bend! Kristy is ecstatic to see the lean to sign I become aware she is probably more tired than she is letting me know. I am happy too; I would like to get off my feel for a bit as well. I walk up to the lean to I see a shirt hanging from the edge, awe shit the lean to gods did not bestow upon us an empty lean to. I come around the corner see 2 guys sitting on the edge with tons of crap in the lean to. I know with all the stuff there must be more people around. I look around don’t see any, ask if there is room for 2 more, well actually 3 with Pepper. They are accommodating and gather their stuff up to one side, holy cow that is all their stuff how do they carry it all I wonder. I look over to Kristy she looks at me like we can’t stay here let's try the next one, I reassure her it will be fine, and make the comment "it is ok to sleep in a lean to with 2 random dudes." We introduce ourselves to Mark and Josh, learn each other’s names and then set up a sleeping pad beside them. They don’t really look like axe murders, it should be fine.

We change into some fresh socks and pants out back of the lean to, I realize I forgot another long sleeve shirt, looks like I don’t anyway. I will just be a dirtbag. Then we go down to the water which is what draws me to this beautiful lean to every time and make dinner hang out for a bit then return to the lean to where Mark and Josh are chillin'. They ask of if we drink we both say "YES" and become insistent friends. They offer us a beer, before even knowing what kind I accept; to our delight it is an IPA! I guess the lean to gods where shining on us after all. Most of the weirdness faded away as we hung out shared a flask of Jim Beam Maple and another of fireball. Mark and Sandy Beard (aka Josh) shared some of the luxury items they brought with them like booze, a tea candles, and beef jerky. All of us were laughing at some shared stores before calling it a night.

I clean off Pepper's paws and curl up in the sleeping bag with her. For sure, I would have been freezing all night if I didn’t have my little pup as a heater with me. Second time I love how Pepper is the perfect size.  I wake up a few times during the night to shuffle around Pepper; she is 100% out cold and will not move around me. I was a bit cold but some toe warmers in my socks helped me make it the whole night without jumping in Kristy's sleeping bag with her. (I later find out my sleeping bag is only rated for 40 degrees and it was defiently in the 30s.)

I wake up as usual before anyone else. Too cold to get out of my sleeping bag, watch the sky turn from blue to dusty rose. I breathe in the fresh air and feel relaxed. I love sleeping in the forest and waking up without an alarm clock. It is literally the best feeling. I take Pepper to the water to get a drink then return to sit around for about another 20 mins before finally waking Kristy up.  I would have left her sleep longer if I’d known where the coffee is. We hang out drink coffee; eat some muffins, the only thing Kristy and I brought enough of to share with Mark and Josh. I watch as Josh pulls out a measuring cup to measure his coffee grinds and laugh thinking I would never carry that just eyeball it dude. As Kristy and I pack up our stuff Josh comments on what I nice daypack I have, really daypack? This is way more room then I need for a day. Kristy and I say our goodbyes and start out for our final descend.

We had planned to take it nice and slow on Sunday hang out stop and enjoy the views, climb down to the waterfall I wanted to show Kristy yesterday. On the trip out I start to look at everyone else’s packs. I wonder what all they have in there, why do they need all of that? Would I be happier, more comfortable, or just too tired if I carried all the stuff they do? We come across a girl hiking alone with a huge pack, and her dog, how is she able to carry all that I wonder. Am I the smart one or the weak one? Maybe it is my trail running background that makes me not interested in all that crap, maybe it is the minimalist lifestyle I have been working on living, I still continue to ponder this.


Kristy and I arrive back at the car around 12:00 then head to the ADK café for lunch and a beer to celebrate our trip.  I celebrate that I have a friend willing to take on these adventures with me, the cutest dog that I bond with even more every time I take her out in nature with me, the body able to perform the tasks I set before it, and the soul that craves and desired this time spent in nature more than anything else. 


Since Kristy and I are both writing the same trip from a different view we decided to answer some of the same questions.

1. What is the one thing you would bring if you could do it again?

I would probably bring an extra long sleeve top, I actually thought I packed this until we arrived at the lean to. One item I would have liked more is a pair of gaiters. I had some water splash in my shoes and they got wet. And maybe a beer or hard cider.

2. What was your favorite part?

Well, the whole thing! More specifically having a friend to go with! Of the trip though, I loved when we first started to see the frost on the trees. The way the light sparked through the tips of the trees, and your legs can take you there! Human powered!

3. What was your least favorite part?

The wind burn from the summit and the coldness!